Sir Paddy Investigates: Mordheim - City of the Damned - HighrezGaming

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Sir Paddy Investigates: Mordheim - City of the Damned / 25th of May 2015

Oh good, I'm starting to look like that guy who plays all the Games Workshop games. Like the previously reviewed Warhammer: Quest, this is an adaptation of one of Games Workshop's less popular titles. Unlike Warhammer Quest, it's still in early access and while the former felt a bit empty without its overpriced DLC, this just feels empty in general. But that's not to say it's terrible, there's a mountain of potential goodness here.

To break it down, it's the Warhammer version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a thoughtful strategy game where your ragtag group takes on the odds in small scale skirmishes. Frankly, it's something there needs to be more of so there's an itch to be scratched. Currently fully playable but only in the skirmish mode where you take a pre-set team (from one of the four factions vying for supremacy in Mordheim) and fight against another pre-set team. This can be done either online, or against the game’s A.I.

Mercifully there are a goodly number of maps, and most maps have multiple ‘deployments’ that help keep things from becoming very stale, very fast. These deployments are intended to create scenarios, and they do well to set the scene whilst giving you a reason to shake up your troop layout. For example; in a single map you may choose to be the ambushers or the ambushed in an assault on a temple, or to engineer a head to head confrontation to the death. It’s something I can see being a lot of fun if you enjoy the simplicity of a well-executed ruleset and can stand the insubstantial nature of not yet being able to customise your team, or play through the - as of yet unavailable - campaign mode.

It's just that bit more complex than XCOM: Enemy Unknown was, there's a bigger variety of weapons, abilities and troops, supposedly each faction will have its own campaign so there's a big bundle of potential ways to play this. And that's a good thing, it's no doubt interesting to play with the rules now transferred to a computerised system, but more crucially it manages to still feel exciting when playing against either another person, or the game’s A.I. Learning the ropes of what abilities do, when to tactically retreat, how to position your troops for maximum destruction of their enemies feels rewarding and makes the strategist in me yearn for more. This could be something very, very enjoyable when it's finished and there's more of it. Of course if you just want some Mordheim action but don't have access to the rulebooks, the deluge of tiny plastic or metal men or the time to roll all those dice then this can suffice assuming you can put up with being restricted to the pre-made teams.

Yet despite that I can't really recommend it for anyone else at present. The promised customisation options and campaign mode sound promising, but they're completely missing so far. In addition to this, technically speaking, it’s not completely sound yet. I've had the game on a loading screen waiting to start a match on my horribly powerful computer as I type this, and somehow I’ve put out one hundred words down in that time. These are some seriously long load times and while the game is handsome in its own way, it doesn’t come close to justifying this sort of laboured performance.

This is all bearable if you're having fun with the game, and thanks to owing to its turn based nature it definitely doesn't need to run at sixty frames-per-second to be enjoyable to play, but it still forces me to encourage caution when deciding wheter or not to recommend trying it out at the moment. You’re likely better off waiting a while to see what they do with it in truth.

But back to that handsomeness for a moment. For better or worse, it looks and feels faithful to its roots, grim environments shrouded by the fog of war as you battle across various locales in a city annihilated by chaotic forces. It probably won't appeal to those who loved the personality brought by XCOM's brightly coloured aliens and mech suits with tiger stripes, but it suits the theme and Games Workshop properties have always been a place where some great personality can flower despite - or perhaps because - it's allowed to grow in a dim, muddy environment. Unfortunately none of that is here yet because there's basically no writing within the game thanks to it being sans-campaign. Yet more reasons not to play this bloody game yet!

The bottom line for the game is if you're into it - or think you’ll be into it - wait, if at all possible. Hopefully by the time of full release the majority of its shortcommings will have been addressed. As it stands, and despite the limited number of features, it'll probably still beat a trip to the cinema if you equate time spent to value. But if you weren't already excited to hear this was getting made then give it a miss for now, it's way too far from finished, and given it's coming up for six months since it first hit early access, progress seems a little bit slow.

Paddy Maxson
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